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BOCC request for more time on boat lift issue rejected

By Staff | Nov 7, 2012

It was almost 11 p.m. Monday, and some members of the Cape Coral City Council were weary and ready to head home after more than six hours on the dais.

Mayor John Sullivan was only getting warmed up, however, especially when it came time to discuss the Board of County Commissioners letter requesting an extension of the deadline to resolve the long-fought battle over the Ceitus boat lift issue in the North Spreader canal until March.

Sullivan made a motion to send a letter to the BOCC, signed by his fellow council members, that there will be no more discussion on the matter when the 180-day agreement to hold off on any decision expires Sunday.

The agreement was made so both sides can gather scientific data on the boat lift, and Sullivan, along with the rest of council, agreed the time for extensions after years of wrangling is over.

“It’s cost us six years of staff time and residents lots of money. After March, then what?” Sullivan said. “All we’ve accomplished is waste time and money. No more capitulation.”

The BOCC wants the Ceitus boat lift, which was removed four years ago, to be reinstalled, to the objection of the city and despite the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers recommending the lift not be replaced.

The city and the BOCC agreed May 15 to spend the next 180 days gathering more data and try to reach an agreement on the issue.

But on July 31, the BOCC voted to spend $500,000 of reserve funds for monitoring equipment and to find expert witnesses, presumably for a lawsuit against the city for not following state statutes regarding the resolution of conflicts between governmental entities.

To Sullivan and the council, the FDEP and Corps of Engineers’ recommendations are all the proof they need and they need not go any further.

“Just let the agreement end. It’s just like the county. When they don’t get the answer they want, they extend,” said Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz. “Let the agreement pass and say hello to them in the hallway.”

Councilmember Kevin McGrail said, however, that with the BOCC elected two new members, there can be some collaboration.

“We need to ask the BOCC to get off the Chapter 164 lawsuit road. By discussing it, we can move in a positive manner,” McGrail said.

Sullivan was skeptical.

“The BOCC has never bargained with us on anything. They take, take, take,” Sullivan said. “We can’t be nice. We need to make clear this is the way it is.”

Sullivan motioned to draft a letter to the BOCC, which the council approved 7-1, with John Carioscia objecting. Chulakes-Leetz added the council members should also sign their names.

Councilmember Rana Erbrick cautioned the mayor on the tone of the letter, not wanting a repeat of the last time the council voted to send a letter to the BOCC on the matter, when the harshly written draft had to be softened considerably before being sent.